Nicknamed 'the professor', Michel Desjoyeaux has won just about all there is to win in the single-handed offshore disciplines of offshore sailing. His talent and skill are undeniable, and his performance in this edition of the Vendee Globe, where he had to return to port following the start, and thus was two days behind the rest of the fleet, has been nothing short of unbelievable.

'Mich Desj' has links to the Volvo Ocean Race through his participation in its previous incarnation, the Whitbread Race Around the World. Desjoyeaux competed in three editions of the Whitbread - in 1985, at the tender age of 20, with Eric Tabarly on Cote d'Or, in 1989 on Charles Jourdan and in 1993 on La Poste.

Several sailors in this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race have competed in the IMOCA Open 60's that make up the Vendee Globe fleet. Green Dragon's Damian Foxall, for example, raced with one of the pre-Vendee favourites, Jean-Pierre Dick in the two-handed Barcelona World Race last winter. PUMA's Sidney Gavignet and Andrew Cape also competed in the Barcelona race, as did Pachi Rivero off Telefonica Black, and Guillermo Altadill of Team Russia and Delta Lloyd.

As the winner of the Barcelona World Race, Damian Foxall knows what it takes to get an Open 60 around the world non-stop, and he's effusive in his praise of Desjoyeaux.

"It certainly started out as the race of the century really, 30 Open 60s on the startline for a non-stop, round the world race. Unbelievable," Foxall said from Qingdao, where he is preparing to re-join the Green Dragon team.

"Of the 30 boats there were at least 10 that could win it. There were some favourites within the favourites obviously, with Mich Desj, Loick Peyron, Vincent Riou. Then there some very good others like Mike Golding, Jean-Pierre Dick. It set out as an amazing event."

In the end, this edition of the Vendee Globe turned into an epic test of endurance. Michel Desjoyeaux has won the race, and 10 others remain at sea racing. 19 boats have retired.

"It was pretty obvious to anyone involved in the class, and even to people outside, that this race would be won by the person who kept pushing their boat to the maximum of its potential but could also keep it togiether in a seaman-like fashion. My forecast was that we would get nine boats finishing in a racing format, nine finishing with serious problems, and the rest wouldn't finish. In actual fact, it has been worse than that!

"Mich got the formula right. I'd agree that he is the best ever. He is not the only excellent single-handed sailor...but I suppose in terms of pure technical, natural ability and results on the water Mich has stepped up. He is quite far and away the best and probably the best ever."

Foxall went on to reveal that he harbours ambitions of competing in the Vendee Globe one day himself, but acknowledges the challenge of the race is daunting.

"An Irishman has never entered and I'm starting to think that not only could I enter it but I could take it on and do it justice. Over the last seven or eight years I have done a round the world race nearly every year. Here (this Volvo Ocean Race) is another one. A natural progression would be the Vendee but I'd only do it under the right conditions."

But that's a dream for another day. For now, Foxall is focussing on leg five of the Volvo Ocean Race, which is a leg of 12,300 nautical miles, nearly half the distance Desjoyeaux sailed (28 300) in winning this edition of the Vendee Globe. That should keep him occupied for the time being.